Tuesday, June 30, 2015

adoption story: tyler and miki

Meet Jonah.


This little boy is the result of years of prayers, of heartache and tears, and ultimately of love.

Let me tell you the beginnings of his story...

Jonah's parents, Tyler and Miki were eager to become parents. More than anything, they wanted to raise a family. They have big hearts for children but had been unable to have a baby biologically. That's when adoption became the answer to their dreams to become parents.


Tyler and Miki had heard about Christian Adoption Consultants through an acquaintance. You've heard me mention the amazing adoption family that is growing up all over the country among CAC families. Through their adoption journey, this family and a handful of others nearby became some of Tyler and Miki's biggest supporters, cheerleaders, and encouragers. And these local CAC families who have welcomed little ones through adoption who now have the joy of growing up together.

It turns out those families were their lifeline. When Tyler and Miki went through a failed match just before Christmas, they needed all of the encouragement they could get to stay the course. Just days later they heard about another expectant mother needing an adoptive family. They were immediately drawn to the situation, but hesitated because of all they had just been through. Despite this, they pressed forward, confident that God was in control and writing a beautiful story, even though they didn't know the ending.


Five months later, their son was born. And the name Jonah? They chose it because the Biblical story was a great metaphor for their journey to parenthood. In the beginning, Tyler and Miki felt like they were doing everything their way rather than following God's plan. But God made it clear he had a better plan for their family and everything worked out more perfectly than they could ever have imagined.  

Welcome to the world, Jonah. We can't wait to see the rest of your story.


Monday, June 29, 2015

adoption story: paul and jenny

One thing you have to know about Paul and Jenny: they love big. One look at their family picture and you can see that family is their first priority. 


I'll let Jenny tell you the story of how their family picture grew from just the two of them to a family of eight.

Adoption has long been the way we’ve wanted to add to our family, even before we were married. Shortly after we were married, a mission trip to Jamaica working at an orphanage for children with severe mental and physical disabilities. I remember watching my husband hold a four year old child who could not hear, speak, or talk with such tenderness. He didn’t see any of this child’s deficits. We left knowing first hand that God had truly placed a love in our hearts that wasn’t just born of biology. We went home knowing we would do something about it.  So, we became foster parents. We started fostering before having any of our own. Twenty plus foster children later (and four biological!), God brought our incredible son, James, into our lives through foster care. In short, fostering babies and children and loving their birth families has been amazing and something we’ll forever be grateful for. We still have a lot more love to pour out; we love our family and want to share it with another little one! 

And so, they began the domestic infant adoption process with Christian Adoption Consultants last May. They were home study ready in July, And seven months later they were matched with an expectant mom.

I watched them over the next several months as they loved their expectant mother. Paul and Jenny are passionate about living out their faith, sharing Jesus with their kids, and were devoted to doing the same with her. In their profile for their birth mother, they wrote these words:

If you choose us to parent your child, they will be raised to dream big. They will be taught that they can do anything in God’s strength, and have a team of people who love them (including you!) cheering them on as they go. We will do all that we can to raise a young person that you will be very proud of. We’re sure this little one will grow to be a difference maker in the world!  



In May they welcomed their son into the world. Their family grew from seven to eight. 

Their son's story didn't start the day he was born. It didn't start the day his birth mother chose Paul and Jenny to be his parents or when they knew their dining room table had room for another. It didn't even start that day Jenny saw Paul hold a little one and know parenthood would be one of their most important callings in life.


His story began before the beginning of time when a Creator wrote his story, wrote him into their family, and knew he would be a difference maker in the world.



Friday, June 26, 2015

adoption story: brad and meagan

Brad and Meagan had already been blessed by the miracle of adoption. They adopted their son from Ethiopia in 2011 treasured parenthood and all that came with adoption. They learned from experience that the love they have for an adopted child is second to none. 


For Brad and Meagan, adoption was never a second choice and came to a time when they felt it was right to adopt again. They started with Christian Adoption Consultants last July while living abroad for work. When they returned to the states in the fall they began working on their home study. In January their home study was complete and just four weeks later, they were matched with an expectant mother due the end of May.


But on May 1st, their daughter made a surprising early appearance! Just as Brad was arriving to the airport from overseas, Meagan was packed and headed out to meet their daughter. They literally took Meagan's suitcase out of the car, loaded Brad's back in, and Brad headed home to make final preparations as Meagan boarded a plane.


The next day, in the middle of the night, Meagan arrived just after the baby's birth and the next day, Brad and proud big brother arrived as well. You can see from these first meeting pictures with Daddy, Big Brother, and Grandparents that this little girl was longed for and prayed for for quite awhile.




One of the things I have loved about walking with Brad and Meagan is the way they have loved their birth family. They have spent time getting to know them, praying for them, and honoring their choice for life for their daughter. 


Unlike most adoption stories, much of the excitement and unknown actually happened after their daughter's birth as they awaited legal permission to return back home. Through the entire ordeal, I watched as Brad and Meagan handled unexpected delays and unknowns with incredible grace. They never wavered in their confidence in God's plan and their commitment to the adoption process and bringing their daughter home.

Welcome home, to another family who embraced adoption wholeheartedly and have a beautiful story to tell of their daughter's beginnings.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

running away

Every kid does it at least once. I guess I never did but I thought about it. I had dramatic plans to pack a suitcase and run away from home when I was especially upset at my parents. This weekend, Isabelle decided it was her turn.


We had had a particularly rough day. Nine is TOUGH ya'll. There are emotions and eye-rolling and hormones and eye-rolling and parents telling you what to do. And more eye-rolling. Teaching a nine year old girl going on nineteen how to keep emotions in check, develop self-control, and learn to trust Jesus with it all is a full time job. 

And if I'm honest, dealing with it all I have to relearn how to keep my emotions in check since I'm also raising a mini-me. We don't just look alike; we have very similar personalities which can make for some fiery dynamics between the two of us. And if my mother's experience with me is any indication, these next few years are gonna be doozys. 

So after an evening of hard hearts, harsh words, and plenty of eye-rolls, we were at the epitome of nine.

Without a word, she brought me a walkie-talkie and took the other. Then, she packed a suitcase and dramatically announced she was running away. Before I knew it, she was walking out the door. 

I quickly grabbed Jamy from upstairs, filled him in on what was happening, and we watched her from the dining room window. 

"Mom?" (she had the walkie talkie).

"Yeah, babe?"

"Goodbye." (Oscar-worthy drama. For real.)

That's when she broke down crying and ran back home. You should have seen Jamy and I scramble from the window when she turned around so she wouldn't see that we had been watching her the whole time.

She had gotten as far as two houses down. She never even made it out of our cul-de-sac and the whole thing maybe lasted 5 minutes.

The rest of the night there were more tears. But this time with a soft heart, acknowledgement of pain caused, and repentance. But one thing she said has stuck with me:

"Mom, I've been so mean. Families aren't mean to each other. That's why I had to leave."

I was quick to correct her. Actually, families are mean to each other all the time. We see the best and the worst of each other. We have sharp tongues and use them with the people we know will still love us if they see our ugly side. When we have a bad day our family is the first to see our crummy attitude. She's right that we should strive to love our family well of course, but often those we love most don't get the best of us.

But we were never meant to leave our family. Family works through it. Family has the hard conversations; even if there's raised voices and eye-rolls mixed in. Family always stays. 

Family was never meant to say goodbye.

The night ended with hugs and reminders of God's goodness and grace. And I told her if she ever ran away again, I would always make sure she found her way home.



Lessons learned:

Make sure you pack your walkie talkie. Communication is important even when you're fed up.

You can leave out the eye-rolls. You might not win the Oscar but it'll be easier to win a heart.

If you've said goodbye, make sure you don't make it more than two houses down the street before you turn around and come home.


Friday, June 19, 2015

a letter to my husband on father's day

This weekend is a big one for our family. Not only are we celebrating the Daddy in our house, but we're also celebrating his homecoming one year ago. One year ago Jamy returned home to our family after being gone for seven months. One year ago we were celebrating answered prayers, changed hearts, and a family forever changed.


This year, it's been good for my heart to look back. To be reminded of the work that God has done and continues to do in our family, and celebrate God's continuous work of redemption. This was the letter I wrote to Jamy last year on Father's Day and is just as true today.



Jamy,

So much has happened in our family since celebrating your last father's day. You've left our family and come back home.

But the father who left his children 7 months ago, the father who left his children even long before that, is not the father who has returned this Father's Day weekend.

You have come back stronger.
You're learning that strength is found in humility and admitting your weaknesses. That true strength is admitting you have none on your own and resting on God's work in your life.

You have come back braver.  
You have a quiet confidence; not in yourself, but in finding your identity in whose you are.  

You have come back transformed.
God's miraculous and redemptive work in your life has utterly changed you.  

The man you have become, and are becoming, is one that I'm incredibly proud of. The work you've done, and allowed God to do through you in these past several months had been nothing short of redemptive. It has begun to change you and the very fabric of our family in amazing and beautiful ways.

So on a day I would imagine it might be hard to look back and see the faults, the failings, and the pain, it's good to look forward at the new life God has given you as a father.

A new picture of what Jesus would look like with skin on in our house.

A new legacy to give your children of following hard after Jesus.

And when you keep passionately pursuing him, 
I will be proud if Jackson becomes a man who looks like you 
and and if Isabelle marries a man like you 
and someday they become fathers like you...

I love you, Jamy.  Happy Father's Day.
S


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

adoption story: angelo and susan

When I think of the time I had the honor of walking with Angelo and Susan on their adoption journey, I can think of nothing but passionate hope. From the moment I first met Susan, she had a fire that was contagious. Susan does nothing halfheartedly and her road to their daughter was no different. 

 

Angelo and Susan had been blessed with their sweet son and after tremendous loss, knew God had called them to adoption to continue to grow their family. Around this time last summer, Susan and Angelo started with Christian Adoption Consultants and were home study ready within weeks. 

Susan of course hoped for a quicker match. I began sending situations and Angelo and Susan were presented to multiple expectant families. When the weeks stretched into months and there was still no match, Susan never lost her passion for adoption, her commitment to their journey to build their family, and her fierce hope that there was a little one out there meant to be a part of their family.

And then, they were matched. It's still amazing to me how things can change in an instant. One moment Angelo and Susan were wondering if adoption would ever happen for them. If they would go another year with no baby. And then they are scrambling to make sure the nursery was ready and flights were booked. Because less than four weeks later they welcomed their beautiful daughter into the world.



And that wait that seemed so long? Susan was right all along to keep hoping. Their wait between when they were home study ready and when their daughter was born was almost nine months to the day.


Today I'm celebrating with Angelo and Susan and a proud big brother on the birth of this beautiful girl and thankful for God's promise that hope does not disappoint.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

falling in love with Stitch Fix


I've known about Stitch Fix for awhile now but didn't finally dive in until recently. The idea intrigued me. Fill out a style profile, set a price point, schedule a delivery, and voilĂ ! A personal stylist sends you a package of products picked just for you based on your tastes, budget, and lifestyle. I've had friends who love it and hate it but I think I found the secret to loving it (more on that later). My first Stitch Fix arrived yesterday, but it took me getting over a few fears before I started.


Honestly, my biggest hang up was the price. I'm used to getting most of my clothes from clearance racks at The Gap or hoping to score designer items thrifting. But here's what I've found. All of those clothes I score an amazing deal on? They sit in my closet because they don't fit exactly right or I bought them more because it was a great bargain rather than because I loved them. There's been a huge shift in my thinking to actually buy more expensive, quality clothes, but less of them. I would rather have 20 pieces of clothing I love and feel myself in than a closet full of clothes I'm not really crazy about.

And what if I hated what they picked? How is a stylist who does't know me know that I love simple and classic looks and value comfort over glam? The style profile helped with this one. It takes into account my lifestyle (more work from home than cocktail parties) and my preferences (no faux fur or leather please). And then the key? I sent them a link to my style Pinterest board AND sent a personal message to my stylist. I let her know exactly what I needed this month and a little more about me. I discovered each of my friends who hated Stitch Fix missed these key steps.

And really, how in the world can the sizing be right? Online clothes shopping has always been a crap shoot for me. But one of the things I HATE about shopping is the dressing room. Those horrifying three-way mirrors, the stack of clothes there are never enough hooks for, and saleswomen hovering outside the door. No thank you. Again the style profile saved me on this one. I was asked everything from jean length to curves to proportions. And in my very first fix, every single piece fit me perfectly!

So after this first fix, I'm a believer. The shipment arrived at my door the day I requested it. No shopping trip that took hours looking through racks... Even better, I got to try everything on at home. Jamy had a chance to give me his input and I even had a chance to see what else I had in my closet I could mix and match things with. No saleswomen hovering outside my bedroom...

I loved every single piece that came. Brandi - my stylist - had me perfectly. She even included these great reference cards for style-phobics like me who don't know how to pair outfits.


The Collective Concepts navy blouse I loved from the start along with the versatile 2 strand necklace from Bay to Baubles. The Mavi white skinny jeans and Skies are Blue coral top fit perfectly and I loved the style. But they hugged me in all the wrong places. Bummer.


One piece surprised me. Those Margaret M floral cropped pants I never would have grabbed from a rack in the store. Ever. Committed to this whole process, I tried them on and was stunned. They are more comfortable than jeans (well hello fancy yoga pants!) and I loved them.


So in the end, I kept 3 out of 5 pieces in my first Fix. I paid a $20 styling fee when my items were shipped which went towards my purchase. They were all priced between $34 and $98: more than clearance racks and thrifts stores for sure but better quality and things I love. (AND if I had decided to keep each item, I get a whopping 25% off.) I simply returned the others in a prepaid envelope and dropped it back in the mail. As my kids would say, "easy peasy." I also gave detailed feedback on each item when I checked out so next time around will be even better.

This is genius. I get to pin outfits I like every once in a while, grab a box from the doorstep, and try on clothes in my own home. Purchasing them takes a few clicks rather than running into the store with two kids who could win eye roll competitions. It was so magical I scheduled my next fix to arrive in less than a month this time...

Wanna try Stitch Fix yourself? Getting started is easy: just go to my referral link and create a style profile. The great thing about Stitch Fix is when you share your referral, you get credit towards your fix. Win/win.



Friday, June 5, 2015

adoption and identity {a podcast}

Carl and Lesley just started their journey to adoption, and they've decided to dive right in. It's been a joy getting to know their hearts, their passion for Jesus, and how that's impacted how they've decided to grow their family as a young couple. Recently, Carl and Lesley were interviewed about their motivation for adoption and how they are working with Christian Adoption Consultants to walk with them along the way. It's worth the listen!


To follow Carl and Lesley's story and watch it unfold, you can visit their blog, May You Dream of Beautiful Things.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

what I wish I knew while we were waiting

In the midst of the wait of adoption, it can be easy for discouragement and hopelessness to creep in. Doubting what God has called you to and feeling overwhelmed with the unknown, it's easy to forget that God is working even when we can't see it. It's hard to cling to the truth in the wait.



Recently, I asked some of my families who are on the other side of their adoptions what they wished they knew while they were waiting. Each of them who are done with the wait of their journey and have little ones in their arms. Here's what they said...

God writes the best stories. Better than we could ever imagine. Once you see it all unfolded you realize all the frustration and waiting and delays were not in vain and served the perfect purpose of guiding you to the expectant mom and baby that you were meant to be with.  - Leigh

I read or heard somewhere that we shouldn't put our hope in something that we can lose. I could lose my marriage, I could lose my job, I could lose my child. I had thought, "If only I had ____, THEN I would be okay." Usually the answer was a baby. I thought that when we finally "got" a baby, I would be okay. But then I wasn't. Becoming a mom didn't solve all my problems, in fact, it created some new ones. It's so hard, but that's why we repent and ask God to help our idolatrous heart. Ask him to give you joy and peace…That’s near impossible without God's help. Ask him!  - Stacey

I wish I had realized that God didn't expect all the disappointments, the frustrations and even the no's we experienced to make sense to me at the time but that in the end He would make it all plain and his plan would make SO MUCH sense!  - Gayla


I wish I had known that God hadn't forgotten about us. That His hand was in every detour navigating us to our daughters in His perfect timing.  - Shelley

I wish we had realized just how God loves us...I think about the love my earthly father has for me and I know he would do all in his ability to give me my hearts desires and keep me from tears BUT he can't do it...my God loves me even more than that and He CAN do all of that and more! AND He is faithful...He restored everything the moment we held our son. (And as hard as it was, I had to come to truly realize that God was sufficient even if a baby never came. It was a correcting of my perspective that led to peace throughout the process.)  - Katie

God has a plan and it's better then yours! And once the wait is over, the sadness, longing , and pain seems so short and insignificant!  - Becca

That God would be enough to see us through. That there are GOOD and BAD people in the adoption world and you have to forgive the bad and keep going and trust somehow that it was for a purpose... That God would provide financially when the debt seemed insurmountable. (God knew, I suppose, that I need a lesson in trusting when it came to money!) And in the end, although it was very hard the wait would be worth our little man.  - Rosie

That it's out of our hands, God is in control. Just breathe!  - Michelle

I wish I had realized how very precious every day of the wait is - God needs every second of that time to orchestrate the massive butterfly effect of adoption. To wish it differently is to idolize my own situation and wants. It's not just my family, but the timing of the birth family, the timing of the extended family's experiences (on both sides), the timing of the people you will spontaneously meet along the way who needed to hear your story or whose story YOU needed to hear or who needed to even just see your family from afar and have that work in their hearts, who needed to have an adoptive family's presence in the community or church, the timing of where God needs our adopted children to be as they grow up in order to accomplish his work...I could go on and on. The effects of adoption are far reaching and profound. The timing is NOT just about the right child for our family. Actually, I know for sure I don't deserve such a precious gift at all. The fact God has answered that prayer for us means that we have received INFINITELY more than we deserve.  
- Meagan

It was so good to remember that we weren't waiting on an agency, a situation, a "yes", or even a baby. We were waiting on God alone. And to continually remind ourselves of God's mercy especially in the moments we felt He was an unkind Father. Just as He had compassion on those grumbling Israelites in the desert, He continually had compassion on our faint hearts. Lean into the family of God, and hold tight to the promises of Jesus.  - Danielle



For more in the series, "In Their Own Words," visit here.


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